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Friday, December 31, 2010

Reflections

Ah, it's the day before a new year yet once again.  This one especially seems to have come quickly.  I mean, really, where did 2010 go?!  We were digging out of a Snowpacolypse at about this same time last year, and here in DC, we were on the verge of another one (just dodged it, and our thoughts are with our friends on the Northeast corridor who did not!).

Of course, it's hard not to get reflective during this time of year.  What did I accomplish this past year?  What didn't quite get done?  What am I going to try to do in the upcoming year?  I've been trying to figure this out all this past week while it's been quiet at home and work, and I think I'll share some of my thoughts with you so that, next year, I can come back to this post to double check myself :-)  Also, hopefully, it will help you think this through for yourself and help you set some goals for 2011.

Goal setting does seem to be the first step.  Setting goals is important because you need something to try to achieve and to measure your success by.  And, when I say success, I mean whatever you decide you want it to mean.  It does NOT have to be a money thing (so unfortunate that a lot of people measure success by the amount of money you make) -- it's about what will make you feel like you have taken some steps forward.  You'll want your goal to be something that can be achieved but that will make you stretch a bit.  For example, one of my goals for the upcoming year is to have 1000 followers, either here, on Facebook or Twitter, or through whatever channels followers want to connect with me.  And, I really want to make a connection with people and get feedback from them, so another goal is to actively participate in at least 5 social media/forums (I've been laying back, reading about others, and enjoying the conversations and thoughts, but as they say in NY "you gotta be in it to win it!").  I also want to do a lot more article writing and publishing this coming year, but haven't yet fully nailed down the specifics (that's the other thing -- you need to be specific about your goals, once again so that you can figure out whether you succeeded in accomplishing them).

So, I leave you today with wishes for a Happy and Healthy 2011!!  And start working on your own list of specific goals you want to accomplish in the new year :-)

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Good Review!

So excited to find out that The Crocheter's Design Companion got a 4-star review from AllFreeCrochet.com:  http://www.allfreecrochet.com/Crochet-Reviews/The-Crocheters-Design-Companion and they are going to be having a free giveaway of a copy of the book in about a month or two, so I will definitely keep you all posted about that.

Other than that, hard to believe it's only 5 days til Christmas!  I'm almost done with the holiday cards, and we're taking it easy on the shopping this year.  There's talk of a little snow, but nothing like what we had last year around this time (the first of Snowmaggedon!)  So hard to believe a year has passed so fast....

I will try to post again before Christmas and New Year's, but let me just send right now a Happy and Healthy 2011 wish to you all!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Martha Stewart is a Copy Cat ;-)

Actually, I should be saying "what took her so long?!"  Her Whole Living Challenge today is to take up knitting for relaxation purposes:  http://community.wholeliving.com/profiles/blogs/todays-challenge-knit-1-purl-1?xsc=eml_chl_2010_12_15.  Well, we could have told her that (and did!) long ago.  I wrote an article about the health and wellness benefits of meditation over 2 1/2 years ago, citing Dr. Benson's work into the Relaxation Response.  I've done research specifically into knitting and crochet as forms of meditation and spoke about that during my interview on BlogTalkRadio (see the button to the left).  Not that I'm bitter or anything ;-)  Anyway, I'm glad Martha is getting out the word!




Saturday, December 11, 2010

Oh Happy Saturday

Yes, I am still in my sweats, trying to create order out of chaos!  The mittens pattern should be up soon, and the fabulous Maiah took some wonderful pictures of the Scalloped Baby Hat and the mittens, so here they are:




Oh, and you'll see a new button to the left for blogcatalog.  I just joined, and it's a great directory of blogs in all sorts of catagories.

Now, I think it might be time for a nap :-)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Social Media

I've been doing a lot of crocheting lately and began to feel that I needed to shift back to some marketing and computer work.  I've had some Google ads running to increase exposure (it's been costing about $1.50 a day) and a coupon code for Ravelry (HOLDAY, use by 12/15/10 :-), but an article in Entrepreneur magazine has me thinking more about how to leverage social media (I haven't gotten all the way through it yet, so I'll be posting more when I learn more).  Again, the issue seems to be time.  I love interacting on Facebook and Ravelry, joining groups and forums (fora?), but it can be time consuming, and I'm hoping to pick up some efficiency tips.  Seems like one of the keys might be making use of the new directories and consolidators that are popping up.  Also, I came across a free template for a Social Media News Release that provides a way to pull together all of your information --  http://www.shiftcomm.com/downloads/smprtemplate.pdf

Of course, now I need to do something that's worth having a news release about!  Oh, which reminds me, I thought I had this great idea for a book on all the different crochet techniques, and sure enough, there's one coming out at the end of December.  But, hey, I could still do my own version...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Australia!

I was in Barnes & Noble the other day, looking for the latest issue of Inside Crochet magazine (yes, I've been getting both the electronic and hard copies -- it's an extravagance that I just can't help!), and I came across this wonderful Australian magazine called Yarn.  It's got knit, felt, crochet, and spin in it.  Mmmm, I would just love to go to Australia someday, it just looks like such a beautiful country filled with fun and interesting people.  I've had a few customers from Australia, and I just love thinking about how people halfway around the globe are making a pattern of mine!  It's only right that I return the goodwill :-)  I went to check out the magazine's website also, and it looks like you can buy PDF downloads of patterns as well as subscriptions to this and other publications -- http://www.artwearpublications.com.au/index.php 

There's an article in there as well about the History of Wool that I'm looking forward to reading, but for now, I am finishing up the mittens, getting ready for my Amigurumi class tomorrow, and figuring out which of the seemingly hundred projects I've got going that I'm going to go to next :-)

I've also got a long list of websites to check out regarding ways to leverage social media and the internet by small businesses, so I'm sure I'll be posting on that soon too.  But, a mitten thumb awaits me, so later my friends!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Rippled Pouch Bag

Ah, the rippled pouch bag is done -- it's on display at Looped Yarn Works, and the pattern is available on Ravelry!  It was a fun project, and I enjoyed creating the photo tutorials and inserting them into the pattern for the BPdc (back post double crochet) and the ldc (looped double crochet).

The mittens are next!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

So the turkey is cooked, the sweet potatoes have been baked and marshmellowed, and the veggies are steaming!  This year, we decided to make all the fixings ourselves (with lots of help from Whole Foods), and it's been a good day so far --  cooking, laundry (hey, had to squeeze that in somewhere), and football right after the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade (which balloon character is your favorite?!  I love the Smurfs :-)

Ah, and how to face Black Friday?!  By going to work and trying to avoid all the craziness.  I do need a new lamp for the living room though, so I might just let my fingers do the shopping this year (free shipping and delivery seem to be the draw this year).

The pouch bag that I've crocheted as a sample of the Cascade Portland Tweed yarn is done and just needs some finishing touches.  I found some silvery grommets (eyelets) to give it a hopefully professional finish.  I'll post pictures soon.  Now, back to the mittens...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Bow

So, I promised FaveCrafts that I would come up with a crocheted ornament for Christmas, and I'm finally sitting down to craft something special for the holidays.  I got to thinking about how 1) I'd like to make something that everyone can make for any holiday they are celebrating, and 2) I'd like to make something that can still be used to decorate a tree.  So, I came up with a crocheted bow!

Ch 6, sl st to join into a ring

Round 1:  Ch 1, 2 scs into the ring, ch 8, 7 scs into the ring (be sure to push the ch-8 loop together as you sc into the ring), ch 8, 1 sc into the ring, sl st to top of first sc.



Round 2:  Sl st to next sc, [1 sc, 1 hdc, 9 dcs, 1 hdc, 1 sc] into ch-8 loop, sl st to next sc, ch 11, 3 dcs into 3rd ch from the hook, 1 dc in each of next 2 chs, 1 hdc in each of next 3 chs, 1 sc in each of next 3 chs, skip next sc, sl st into next sc to join, sl st into next sc, ch 13, 3 dcs in 3rd ch from the hook, 1 dc in each of next 3 chs, 1 hdc in each of next 4 chs, 1 sc in each of next 3 chs, skip next sc, sl st to next sc, [1 sc, 1 hdc, 9 dcs, 1 hdc, 1 sc] into ch-8 loop, sl st to sc, pull loop through to back of next st, fasten off.


I hope you will experiment with this pattern and come up with your own modifications (maybe another sc row around in another color?  maybe the first round in a different color than the second round?) and tell me about it!  Happy Holidays :-)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

New Zealand and Wool

I got to go to the New Zealand embassy last night!  Mmmmm, they had lamb chops, skewered beef, and beet root mousse canapes, it was just so tasty.  It's a really beautiful building near to the Vice President's residence up Massachusetts Avenue on Observatory Circle.  Thank goodness the rain had let up and the temperature was mild because we ended up doing a lot of walking to get there and get home.

I met a gentleman from the Lamb and Beef Board, and, of course, I had to ask him about what happens to the wool of the lambs before they become dinner!  (You know, I have to say at this point that I try hard to eat as little meat as possible, I really don't like thinking about how an animal had to die to feed me, but suffice to say, no one was thinking about that last night!).  Turns out such lamb have courser wool, so it tends to go into carpet manufacturing.  In fact, the new rug in the Oval Office that was made in Michigan with a special design has a lot of New Zealand wool in it!

Ok, speaking of course wool, I'm running into a problem with one of the yarns that I am making a sample with.  I decided to make the rippled beret with Classic Elite Portland Tweed because it's the right yarn weight, and I thought that the tweeding would look good with the ripple technique, and it does look good (it's a great yarn to work with), but it's stiff!  Now, I'm debating whether to just unravel the whole thing and come up with a new project for that yarn (maybe a purse?) or wash it and see what happens (will it soften?) -- anybody got any suggestions for me?!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Trust

and how to lose it very quickly!  "Trust" is the latest buzz word being touted in business literature.  I've recently experienced loss of it as a consumer, so it got me thinking about it as a small business owner.  As consumers, we expect businesses to meet our needs without much effort on our parts.  We place an order, and we expect to receive it as described seamlessly. These days, with all the social media and emphasis on making personal connections, even with businesses, we're expecting even more from business owners and feeling downright hurt if our expectations aren't met.  That's even more pressure on the business owner than before!

For example, I had signed up for an online course, which had as part of the package a free one-month trial of an additional service.  The offer was that, after the free trial, my account then would be charged an additional fee each month.  I tried to access the site on which the additional service was being offered, but something technologically wasn't working.  After reporting the problem, I received a personal email from the owner explaining the inaccessibility problem and the solution that would be implemented in the future, and assuring me that my automatic account charge had been cancelled.  I had known exactly the date by which I would need to cancel in order to avoid the charge, but I trusted that the matter had been addressed.  As I'm sure you've figured out by now, I was charged.

Of course, I shot off an email expressing my frustration because I was mad at the owner and myself for not going to the site and ensuring that the account really was cancelled.  But, then, I tried to think through my personal reactions as a consumer and how that might affect how a small business owner should react in such a situation.  The response I received was an example of what I think the current business rhetoric is -- give a detailed explanation of what went wrong.  Yeah, that's great, but frankly as a consumer, I'm not sure I really care what went wrong -- I want to know what you, Ms. Business Owner, are going to do to make things right.  Now, in this particular case, such information was included in the response, but it came later in the email.  I think that information needs to be the first thing that you need to convey to your unhappy customer.

Also, don't read too much into what the consumer is telling you and give answers not warranted or required -- in the response, the owner said "I assure you there was nothing sneaky going on here."  Nowhere in my message did I suggest that I thought that anything had been done deliberately or with malicious intent.  In fact, I had clearly stated that I thought the mistake that the owner (and I) had made was to rely on the automated service of a third party vendor.  Mmmm, why are you (business owner) bringing this up and planting it in my head?!

So, the takeaway lesson here? -- 1) immediately address the steps you have taken or are going to take to ensure a solution to the customer's complaint, 2) if necessary, give some explanation of what went wrong, but don't go on so much that it starts sounding like an excuse, and 3) throw in an attractive treat that will encourage the customer to shake off this bad episode and give you a chance again in the future (pay attention, sometimes the customer will indicate what will make him or her happy and keep them coming back).

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Go Coconuts!

I promise I will explain in the next paragraph what this has to do with either crochet or marketing!  But, in the mean time, if you are looking for a tasty and different breakfast bread, then try this fabulous recipe on the Whole Foods website for coconut bread rolls:  http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/2253  I was able to find only sweetened shredded coconut in the grocery store (didn't actually make it to a Whole Foods), so I used that and didn't add any sugar (just a little drizzle of agave syrup).  The rolls really came out great, I'm looking forward to making them again, but it is about a 3 hour process from start to finish.

And, there's where the crochet comes in :-)  I was able to get the top half of my Rippled Beret done (I'm making a sample version to display at Looped Yarn Works!) during the waiting times in between the different steps for the bread (first, you let the yeast mixture sit for 15 minutes, then the bread dough sits for 1 1/2 hour, then you make the rolls and let them sit for another 45 minutes, then bake for 20 to 25 minutes).  I love how I was able to multitask and have such a delicious (and still relatively healthy) breakfast after my hard work!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Crochetdermist

Shauna Richardson has been featured on a number of crochet sites and blogs in the last year or two, but I thought this link offered the best pictures and up-to-date information about her work.  http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/crochet-animal-sculptures-7  Her sculptures really are amazing -- I can't imagine having that much artistic talent and patience to create such huge and lifelike crocheted animals!

PS  I'd recommend that dog lovers also click on "The Fine Art of Dogs" link at the bottom of the crochet post :-)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Boooooo!

Well, it's Halloween!  More importantly, I can't believe October is over, and the next bit of planning is for Thanksgiving.  I've got an amigurumi turkey project in the works, but not sure if it's going to be ready in time due to all the other projects I've got in the works!  Ah, if only I could crochet all day, but unfortunately, the real world keeps intruding.

Anyway, no whining allowed!  But, looking ahead, you're going to be hearing about two main topics from me:  crochet and marketing (and hopefully just some fun things and insights that I come across in my daily travels).  I'll be looking at the mind, body, spirit link in those two topics for the rest of the year at least.  Why am I telling you this now?  Well, I'm hoping you'll stick with me and give me feedback on the information that I share with you, and, also, I'm hoping it'll keep me focused and on track to accomplish some goals that I have in both areas (I'll probably be sharing those with you soon too, but I really do need to prioritize first).  There really is only so much one can do in a day, and I'm determined to figure out how to make the most of each day in an efficient and fulfilling way.  Believe me, if I actually do figure it out, I will share :-)

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!  and, PS, it's not too late to make a Jill O'Lantern, she works up very quickly!  Get her free from my Ravelry page (click on the link on the left!).

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Struggle Continues...

You know, there are only 24 hours in a day.  Duh, but you know what I mean -- sometimes that realization really hits me.  You have to sleep at least 7 or 8 of those hours (believe me, it makes a difference, and if you're not getting that amount of sleep, you need to reassess, it really is a health issue).  Then, there's eating, getting ready, a full time job, commuting, etc. so there goes another 10 to 12 hours.  So, what's left?!  About 4 hours.  And, there's the rub -- how to spend that time??  Last night, I spent it watching TV, experimenting with some new techniques, and coming up with some new designs.  But, of course, nothing got finished.  Ufta! (oh, that's my new favorite word.  I've also seen it as "Uff dah".  It's Norwegian in origin and stands for basically what you'd expect ("oh crap").  It also stands for Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act, but that's a whole other story!)

Well, don't let my lack of productivity influence you!  Here's another great resource for creative small businesses -- http://smallerbox.net/blog/category/link-love/

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What Trolling the Internet Will Get You

In my case, some quite interesting sites to see!

First up is "Regretsy", a site "where DIY meets WTF".  There are just some really "interesting" crafts on there.  I'm not going to repeat some of the comments posted, and I really admire Sally Ives for taking it like a woman:  "Feel so 'honoured', an item of mine was finally featured on 'Regretsy': http://www.regretsy.com/2010/10/22/kelly-is-such-a-bitch/  Thankfully, they didn't say it was a hideously ugly piece, and I did laugh--their comment is pretty much why the face is blanked out!"

Then there's this crochet posting that my brother-in-law came across while checking in on his favorite auto site:


Olek, a Brooklyn based artist, just closed her installation, "Knitting is for Pus****" in which she swaddled a host of everyday objects in vividly colored crochet. Everything from bicycles to televisions and living, breathing people got the yarn treatment, including a plaster remake of a 1959 Morris Minor.

Ok, so go have fun wasting some time on the 'net!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How to Sell Online Effectively

Well, I was hoping to catch up on reading all of the articles, downloads, bootcamp modules, etc., that I have put aside on small business and entrepreneurship, but of course, started to get distracted by bright, shiny objects!  I did get some great insights from a recently released eBook by Meylah, a site that seems to combine a storefront platform, a blogging service, and online tutorial sales.  I'm really not up for creating yet another site that I have to maintain, but I do believe they make available a lot of sound advice in setting up your small business.  Here's where you can download the eBook:  http://meylah.com/meylah/meylahs-new-ebook-a-roadmap-to-success-how-to-sell-online-effectively

I think I'm finally starting to get the hang of social media also, but I still find it really hard to open up about myself.  Sometimes, when I write a blog post or send out the newsletter, it feels like it's going out into this black hole.  I mean, really, does a newsletter give advice if no one reads it?!  But, then you discover that people actually do read what you write!  It's so exciting to find out that you've passed along information that others actually read and find useful.  So, even if you are sending out messages and not getting comments or direct messages from your recipients, don't be discouraged, just keep conversing, even if it does seem like a one-sided conversation :-)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Blog Hop

So, we've gone from swapping to hopping!!  Here, you can really see an amazing collection of craft blogs:



And of course I'm participating (hey, I figured I'd milk the cassette tape crocheting for all it's worth ;-)

Other than that, I'm still in "fall cleaning" mode -- not sure why I'm not a believer in spring cleaning, probably because I'm so excited that the weather is getting nice that I don't want to be trapped inside.  But, by the fall, it's time to get serious about cleaning up the inside, where I'll be trapped all winter :-(  I guess you can tell I'm not a fan of cold weather, though this year, I'm really going to try to find some outdoor activity that I can use to make the best of it.

Ok, happy blog hopping!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Blog Swap!

It's here!  Our blog swap with Nicholette and Vanessa of Craft Envy!  Just check out their great blog at  http://nv-craftenvy.blogspot.com/
And, here is Nicholette's Halloween project:



What you will need:

-Black 8x10 frame

-12 inches of ribbon

-hot glue gun

-Silhouette machine


1. Using your silhouette machine, cut out the words "happy haunting" and a corresponding picture. (Pumpkins on the fence can be found at the silhouette online store).

**If you want to put the vinyl behind the glass (that's what I did) you will need to flip your image horizontally.

2. Take the glass out of your frame and discard the backing to the frame.


3. Peel out your vinyl cut-outs and stick them to the glass of the picture frame.


4. Smooth out all of the air bubbles.



5. With your hot glue gun, put a dab of glue in each inside corner of the frame. Set your glass neatly inside.


6. Hot glue or staple one or more ribbons to hang your picture.


Pretty cool!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

September Round-Up

So, the September Round-Up on FaveCrafts has been posted -- who inspired you to be an artist?  why do you create?  For some responses, including mine, go to this link:  http://www.favecraftsblog.com/monthly-craft-question-who-inspired-you-to-become-an-artist-why-do-you-create/

Whew, so I just taught my first class over at Looped Yarn Works!  It's a two session introduction to crochet, and I think it went well.  The "classroom" at Looped makes it so easy to give students individualized attention around this comfortable table.  There's just such a great vibe in both rooms :-)  I've got a Tunisian Crochet class coming up in November, and Amigurumi Crochet in December.  I'm thinking about adding some more classes, so if anyone's got any requests, just let me know!!

Ok, back to unearthing myself from piles of paper!  Happy Columbus Day!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Cassette Tapes

Oh, come on, admit it, you probably have a bag (or more) tucked away somewhere that is full of cassette tapes.  Here are a couple of the ones I dug out just recently as I was cleaning out my storage bin.

Look familiar?!  Hard to believe that's Peter Frampton if you've seen him recently.

Anyway, it got me thinking about an article that I read in Inside Crochet magazine about crocheting with it!  So, I rewound the tape as best as I could, considering I couldn't find my tape player, cut it at the beginning, and started to pull some out.  I am using an H hook below.


(I kept some of the pink part at the very beginning).  I remembered from the article that you should be sure that your hands are dry and avoid doing it in humidity (a great fall and winter project!).  Now, the article also said to scrunch up the tape before using it, but that really wasn't working for me, so I just kept pulling it out and keeping it loose to make my chains and stitches.

For good or bad, it's hard to know where the hook should be inserted, so I just winged it and made as many single crochet stitches across as I felt like I wanted to (I didn't even count, but of course, that would be a good way of ensuring some form of consistency and evenness :-).  Here's what a couple of rows of single crochet look like.


The "fabric" is surprisingly soft, so a scarf or something to wear is not out of the question.  I'm not really sure what I'm going to make, but I've got plenty of tapes to experiment with!  Please post your suggestions here and some pictures on our Facebook page!  Once I come up with a project, I'll post more too.

Monday, October 4, 2010

SnapIt

So, I get this email out of the blue, asking if I would try a screen capture software and blog about it.  At first, I thought it was spam, but I did some research on the company (Digeus) and the software and discovered that it is legit.  I'm always looking for ways to make it easier for me to post pictures to the blog because I know it's so much more interesting to have pix to look at rather than just a bunch of dry text.  So, I kinda threw caution to the wind, downloaded the software, and gave it a try.

I think I like it!  A little camera icon shows up in the bottom right corner of your computer screen, then when you see something on a website that you want to capture, you just push the "PrtScrn" button on your keyboard, which then lets you crop what you want and save it.  There's a way to set up auto-save too, and you can also save in different formats, like jpeg, gif, etc.  I think it's going to really help me with the blog and also the website.  Like anything new, it's going to take a little extra effort to set up and get used to using it, but then it really should save some time.  You can read more details about it here:  http://digeus.com/products/snapit/screen-capture.html.  There's a free trial period, and then it's only $17.99 to purchase a full-service copy.

Ok, so on to the other items on my to-do list.  I've got a great idea for a crochet tutorial that I have been wanting to try and post, and now I'm really motivated because I'm going to engage in a "blogswap"!  More on that in the next week or two...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bzzz, Bzzzz

Ok, that's my feeble attempt to sound like a bee.  I was about to say busy bee, but not as much as I was hoping because family commitments took priority this weekend, but I wanted to put up a quick post about a wonderful new community that I have joined -- http://creatingthehive.com/  It's like Facebook, Twitter, and a blogging community, all in one for crafters and artists!  I love that the founder Melissa Marro calls herself the Queen Bee in the true sense of the position -- she's the creative force of the hive, a member of the hive, and a fierce protector of the hive.  Frankly, unlike some other organizations (which I'm going to leave nameless for now), I feel very welcome and supported by the hive community.  No wonder -- Tiffany Windsor, Gerri Curless, and a number of other truly generous artists are members!  Anyway, I think for any of you seeking a supportive and empowering environment in which to gain and/or share inspiration and creativity, the Hive is worth your visit!

Ok, a few more responsibilities to fulfill, and I'll be back :-)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Bit of This...

and a bit of that.  That's what this post is going to be about.  First off, Craftnicity posted a helpful review on September 13th of a Knitting Daily TV DVD that I thought some of you would be interested in:  http://www.craftnicity.com/

Also, the FaveCrafts blogger did one of her round-up questions "do you follow a pattern or just wing it?" and I participated, so here's the link to that post:   http://www.favecraftsblog.com/monthly-craft-question-do-you-like-to-use-patterns-when-crafting-or-do-you-just-wing-it/. This month's question "who inspired you to become an artist? was a fun one to answer too, and I'll pass the answers along when that post comes out.

Also, for those of you seeking resources for launching your own business enterprises, let me take this opportunity to give a shout out to Jessica Swanson, the Shoestring Marketer.  She's got a lot of new offerings up on her site and she's very generous with lots of free resources and tips to get you started:  http://www.shoestringmarketingkit.com/  I like her stuff because she makes practical and actionable suggestions.

I'm still working up some of my own tips for you based on my experiences trying to market the book, etc., but right now, I'm preparing our new quarterly newsletter and catching up on posting some new crochet tips on my Guru site, so ...

Ok, try to stay dry for those of you on the East coast!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pollie

So, Ollie the Octopus now has a big sister named Pollie!  During the grand opening of Looped Yarn Works last Thursday, I figured it was time to revamp the amigurumi octopus to take advantage of this fabulous Cascade Classic 100 percent mercerized cotton yarn that the shop is stocking.  Here are the results:

Pollie and Olllie are both available on Ravelry.

Ah, I have to say, Looped is such a fabulous place!  It was just so comfortable sitting in their beautiful "living room" and crocheting!  I'm so looking forward to teaching there -- please check out their class schedule at http://www.loopedyarnworks.com/.

Now, figuring out the next project...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Kitschy Stitch in Rehoboth

Ah, back home again...  Nice, but I miss the ocean lapping around my feet :-(

But, it was a great vacation, and here is a big shout out to Allison and her beautiful Kitschy Stitch in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.  It's located on 75 Lake Avenue, and it's just a wonderous place.  Lots of space, lots of yarns and accessories, and lots of comfortable atmosphere.  I was sad that I could only visit once and missed the Sit and Stitch on Monday morning, but I did bring home some yarnie goodies (I'll post before and after pictures in an upcoming post).


Check out Allison's blog at http://www.kitschystitch.blogspot.com/ and plan a visit!

Ok, speaking of fabulous local yarn stores, Looped Yarn Works is having its official Grand Opening starting today, and I'll be stopping by to provide crochet support :-)  Come on by!!


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Send in the Clowns

Whoo hooo!  Clownie has made it into an Etsy Treasury.  http://www.etsy.com/treasury/4c9536770e166d9157faea71/send-in-the-clowns?index=1  Take a look at the posting shop, LizzieJoeDesigns, she's got some clever items made of wine corks.

So, I am here in beautiful Rehoboth Beach, Delaware!  The weather has been so great, so I even got a chance to dip my toes into the warm (but very rough due to the latest hurricane!) waters of the Atlantic.  Must have walked at least 4 miles yesterday and hoping to keep that up.  And, I visited the relatively new LYS here -- Kitschy Stitch.  It's a wonderful spot, and I'll be posting so much more about it when I can upload the hopefully lovely photos I took!

Ok, off for another trip up and down the Boardwalk (2 miles!)

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Clownies Are Ready!!

The clownies are all finished!  I hope my friend likes her pink one, and the green one will be posted on Etsy pretty soon.  Once the finishing touches are on the pattern, it will be posted as well.  Whew!  Oh, and a big shout out to Margaret, the best pom pom maker I know :-)  Contact her at her shop, WinterCrochet, on Etsy for your own wonderful poms.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Down Dog

So, as I was holding the down dog pose tonight in yoga class, it struck me that putting the book together was probably the easy part -- now, how to convince folks that it is worth $9.95 of their hard-earned dollars to buy?  Even before that, how to get the word out to people that it even exists?!  Oh, if only I had the answers...

My first challenge is for it to be fully available on Amazon -- I really do think that I've created a useful resource for crocheters that's a good value, and, if people can use the feature that lets you see inside of the book, they will seriously consider making the purchase.  So, I'm exploring what, if anything, I need to do to make that happen.  Right now, I'm under the impression that CreateSpace placed it under consideration with Amazon, it is awaiting approval, and I don't need to do anything but be patient, but I want to be sure!

Self-publishing is pretty nerve wracking!  Every time I went through the darn PDF version, I'd find a little thing that I'd want to tweak, so it took me forever to push the "submit" button.  Even now, I'm thinking of ways to improve the final product, but I've got other projects in the works, and the best advice I can give is to let it go when you know, in your heart of hearts, that you've created something good (versus perfect).  No one's going to scrutinize it the way that you do, so don't let the perfect get in the way of getting a really good product out there.

Now, that's not to say that you shouldn't be striving to create the best book that you can.  Ask everyone you know to take a look at it and give you honest feedback (ok, so your friends might soft peddle it a bit with you, but you'll sense how they feel).  Keep refining it and get it to where you need it to be.  That is where your time and efforts should be going, but having said that, you should really read through all of the submission requirements of whatever self-publishing service you decide you are going to use (from personal experience, plus reading some other authors' experiences, I think CreateSpace seems to be the service to go with right now).  That way, you can create both the substance and the "looks" of the book at the same time.

If you do not want to master a software program, like InDesign, to format your book, then you might want to consider hiring someone to help you.  Services like elance.com allow you to learn about and "interview" service providers and have them bid on your project.  Again, I just want to emphasize that you've got limited time, so I would encourage you to focus on creating the substance and, depending on your resources, then seek help in putting it all together.

That is the best advice I can give you -- everything takes time, and you can't get it back, so really think through how you want to spend your time, then see about how to get help on the other tasks that need to get accomplished.

Of course, more on this soon, as soon as I gather my thoughts better!

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Crocheter's Design Companion is Now Available!!

I've done it!  I've actually published a book!  Actually, it's a notebook with graph paper pages, including round ones for amigurumi, to help you design your own crochet projects and project pages to keep track of the patterns you are working on.  It's also got useful guides for crochet hook sizes, yarn weights, and a glossary of crochet terms and abbreviations, all in one handy and cute 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 inch book that will slip right into your crochet project bag!

You can order it from my CreateSpace publisher's page:  https://www.createspace.com/3476247 or from my website (where you might just find a special deal or two ;-)  And, it should be on Amazon soon too!!


I'll be posting on the process I went through to get to this point for those of you itching to be published authors also!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Where Has the Summer Gone?!

It's really hard to believe that tomorrow is September 1st.  And, even though it's still pretty hot out there still, there really is a different feel in the air.  That "back to school" feeling, even if you don't have any kids around.

And, the baby duckie -- well, he's not such a baby anymore and will probably be flying away soon.


And I am, as always, spreading myself too thin.  Have I sewn on the pom poms?  No.  But, my strategy is to wait til the other poms arrive, then sew them all on at the same time (at least that's what I'm telling myself :-).  Thursday, I'm hoping to stop by Looped Yarn Works because, of course, I must frolic among the new fall yarns!  And breathe in the yarny air and actually begin to figure out a schedule of beginner crochet classes!  I'm looking forward to teaching crochet again, and it'll be so convenient.  I think I might offer Tunisian Crochet classes again too.  I was just ahead of my time a year ago when I offered the class -- I've been noticing a lot more articles, books and patterns with Tunisian Crochet coming out recently.  It really is a fun technique to try, but we'll see...

Alright, as I'm known to say, stay tuned!  Let me leave you with a philosophical thought:  what you don't like and can change, you should change; what you don't like and can't change, you should learn to accept. 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Duckie Update

So, the mama duck has not been around the last week to 10 days, but let's look at happier times:


The baby has grown quite a bit since this picture actually, but s/he is still doesn't seem ready to fly yet.  I'll try to capture him/her floating around in the fountain, s/he really does seem quite at home in those moments :-)

Oh, while I'm giving updates, I just got the sample white pom poms from WinterCrochet (who is on Etsy) -- they are just PERFECT!  All I need to do is sew them on the green clownie and take some pix.

Ok, which means I got me some work to do!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Back At It!

So, I'm back home, digging through mail and dirty laundry!  But, of course, the first thing that I do is get on the computer, checking email and all my sites :-)

And, now I sit here, wondering if I blew the chance to visit a yarn shop while in Atlantic City.  I just hopped on http://www.knitmap.com/ to see if I missed anything (great site -- all you have to do is type in a zip code or city location, and it lets you know if there are any LYSs in the area).  Looks like a yarn shop has not opened near A.C., but I am looking forward to visiting Kitschy Stitch in Rehoboth Beach when I visit in September.

But, I need to recover from this trip first!  More posting soon!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Blogging from A.C.

Yes, I am actually on vacation in Atlantic City, New Jersey!  It's kind of a crazy place to go on vacation, but it's got a nice beach, some wonderful restaurants, tax-free outlet shopping, and free wifi at the Starbucks, so what more could I want!!  Today is kinda overcast, so seemed like a good time to fire up the netbook and blog :-)  I just also put up some new tips on the Lifetips site.  I found a great blog, Crafting With Style, in which the blogger posts a guide to all of the different bed and crib sizes and how to figure out the right size to make a blanket or afghan.

I'm also interested in doing a little more research into Intarsia.  I always thought of that term as being for only knitting, but I've come to realize that it can apply to crochet as well.  I posted a tip about that too, but I really haven't used the technique very much before -- maybe the next project.  I have started the hot water bottle cover project because I was in the mood to work with FPdc (front post double crochet).  I really like how you can create the look of cables in crochet using this technique.  I've almost got enough done to be worth taking a picture of and posting, but that'll have to wait til I'm back home.

And, for those of you following me for the small business and self-publishing tips, I will hopefully be posting on some breakthroughs I've made recently, but it's a bit premature, so please stay tuned!

Ok, I see the clouds shifting, so it might just be time for a beach walk! 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Next!

So, now that the poms are (hopefully) under way, I'm already thinking about what my next crochet project is.  Being one of those folks who can't seem to focus on just one thing at a time, I'm sure I'll start at least 3 things in the next few days.  I've been asked to make a baby gift for January, so that's sort of back burner.  I've been thinking about boy baby items too, especially something that will utilize this beautiful moss green bamboo yarn that I got recently.  I'm hesitant to design a piece of clothing with it because I keep reading about how bamboo really doesn't hold up very well in apparel -- it stretches and loses its shape after washing, which with a baby, is a regular occurrence.  I got Elsebeth Lavold's Bambool, which is 80% bamboo and 20% merino wool, so I'm thinking that the wool is there to help counteract bamboo's shortcomings.  Mmmm, maybe I'd better start experimenting with it!

Duck Update:  so the mama flew the coop, or fountain as the case may be, again over the weekend, but this morning, she seems to be back.  I got a little worried last night when I got home from work because I couldn't see the baby either, but turns out he was rummaging around in the bushes eating dinner!  So cute to watch him (her?) stick his bill into the dirt and munch.  His wings still don't seem to be well-formed enough to be flying or anything, so I imagine the fountain will remain his world for a little while longer.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Pom Poms and Ducks

What do the two have to do with each other?  Oh, nothing, just trying to come up with compelling titles ;-)

But, I do have something to say about both.  First, the pom poms.  I think I've found someone to make them for me, whew.  Just working out the details, but all I'll say right now is that Etsy is wonderful for finding artisans and crafters who can make just about anything for you to your specifications.

As for ducks, there has been a continuing saga at my condo complex all summer.  We have a beautiful fountain in front of the building, and a mother duck has made it her home.  She started out the summer with 4 baby ducks, but alas, only 1 seems to have made it.  Can you imagine the trials and tribulations of trying to protect your chicks in the middle of DC?!  I saw her leading 3 of them down the street towards a major thoroughfare earlier in the summer.  What has been amazing is watching the humans become fascinated by her and her struggles.  People were stopping traffic to try to protect her!  Thankfully, she finally seemed to figure out that the fountain was the place to stay put.  She and her baby would snuggle together on the ledge, or she would sit while the baby would swim around and around. 

Last weekend, though, another duck came for a visit.  The three of them hung out all weekend, but then on Monday, the visitor duck and the mother were gone, and the baby's been there by him (or her)self all week :-(  I guess it's the way of the duck world, but it just seems so sad by human standards.  Well, the saga is not over -- mama duck is back this morning!!  Maybe this was a test run to see how baby would do without her.  I guess she's just got to start toughening up baby so that s/he will be ok when it's time...

Again, what's been so interesting is the reactions of the humans around here.  There seem to be two camps:  one that worries about the ducks bringing diseases or nuisance, so they seem more concerned about keeping the ducks away and the other camp that seems to want to be sure the ducks are comfortable and taken care of.  The latter camp saw to it that a ramp was propped up in the fountain so that the baby could make it up to the ledge when people saw s/he was struggling to get out of the water.  I admit, I think I'm in the latter camp -- I find myself looking out the window all the time or stopping by the fountain to be sure that the baby is still swimming around or resting on the ledge.  Mmmm, I think we need a webcam!

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Clownies Live!

Ok, so they are still without pom poms, but both have been put together.  The green clownie still needs his collar too, but I should be able to whip that up soon.  The pom poms though...


I'm realizing that I think I used a different yarn than Nana did for her clownie -- it's just not as soft, so apparently, that is the big difference between Red Heart's SuperSaver and Classic yarns.  I'm not the biggest fan of these yarns, considering there are so many other, more natural yarns out there that are reasonably priced as well, but I admit that this is a great yarn to use for making the clown doll because it does work up uniformly and keep the spiral shape pretty well.  Now I'm itching to make one using the Classic yarn, so I will report back on that.

Now, about those pom poms... 

Friday, August 6, 2010

It's Coming!

A beautiful new yarn store in Dupont Circle!  It's called Looped Yarn Works, and you can read all about it on their website at http://www.loopedyarnworks.com/.  I will start teaching there in the fall :-)

Clownie is also coming, but the pom poms are turning out to be very challenging.  Even got some gadgets to help in creating the pom poms (instead of having to resort to cardboard), but they are still not coming out round and fluffy :-(  Back to the drawing board tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Eating Lots of Colors

Helen's book is available, and I hope you'll check it out.  She has come up with a really cute but educational book for children on nutrition and learning their fruits and vegetables.  Mom and Dad aren't going to get bored reading it to the kids either, and there's a chart in the back on which everyone can check off their food colors for the day.  Order directly from us and save 10%!!  www.manycreativegifts.com/body.php

This morning, I am experimenting with a gluten free summer squash bread!  I threw in some rhubarb too, so this should be quite interesting.  I've really got to step up the cookbooks so that we will be able to launch them this summer, and I am running out of summer!  Ok, better go insert that toothpick :-)


Friday, July 30, 2010

Clownie Has A Face!!

Oooof, it has been so hot around here this past week, it's been hard to do anything, but I keep plugging away on Clownie.  And now, he's got a face.  I wanted him to have a sweet face since I think this particular clownie is intended for a baby.  What do you think?!

My friend rightly pointed out that a pom pom nose is NOT appropriate for a baby, so I am going to experiment with sewing on the nose also.  Now, I'm really getting to the fun part, putting clownie's pieces all together!

I've been adding some new tips to the http://www.crochet.lifetips.com/ site.  I don't know why a number of patterns these days use the term "2dctog" rather than "1 dec".  It's the same thing -- make a decrease stitch -- but I think the latter term is more descriptive.  Anyway, just wanted to mention it since I've gotten a number of questions recently on how to make a "2__tog".

Ok, back to clownie!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The New Site!!

Whoooo hooooo!!  The new site is up and running!!  Not sure yet whether redirecting the site to a new IP address is going to mess up my email settings, but it's up and running!!  I have so loved getting my geek on :-)  I've been doing HTML and adding widgets and buttons -- sounds like I know what I'm doing, right?!  Well, not so sure about that, but it seems to be working.  I would love to get feedback!

I'm thinking of suspending the newsletter in order to keep fresh content on the website, but I guess they are not mutually exclusive.  Ah, decisions, decisions.

Mmmm, I'm hoping I am now going to be able to spend some time interacting on social media.  Isn't it funny, I have felt like, until I got my own stuff squared away, I didn't have anything to contribute to the discussion, but I'm not sure that that is the way to think about it.  In hindsight, I wish I had just jumped in more, and at this point, I would encourage others to do the same.  Finding a community of like-minded crafters and learning from them and expressing your interests and obstacles is an important way to really explore whether having your own crafts business is what you really want.

Now that I've really taken the plunge with the new website, I really hope to be able to sit back and reflect on where I was, where I am, and where I hope to be going.  Of course, I will try to pass along the "gems" through this blog.

But for now, back to the books!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Oh, Size Does Matter

in the publishing industry.  I've come to discover that there are books that are considered an "industry standard" size and others that are "custom size".  Guess which one I had been working with?!  So, now our 8 1/2 x 11 books (custom) are getting whittled down to 8 x 10 (industry standard).  Why does size matter?  Because, although you can get your books listed on amazon.com and downloaded or converted into ebooks, you cannot get them in stores through CreateSpace's service if they are not industry standard.  Do I think Barnes & Noble or Borders is going to be clamoring to stock our books?  No, but I'd like to have the option.

I'm sad in a way because I had the crochet book set up as 6 x9, which was just such a fun size, easy to carry, etc., but have converted it into 8 x 10 also.  Well, at least all publications by Many Creative Gifts will be uniform and pretty easily recognizable :-)

Oh, and there are differences between Lulu and CreateSpace, though not a bad as I thought it would be.  The Lulu book definitely had nicer paper, but the colors were more muted; CreateSpace is slightly less quality, though again, not as bad as I thought it would be.  The good point -- the colors seems to be a bit brighter with the CreateSpace book.  Also, the same book, all in color, 32 pages -- Lulu charges $11.80, CreateSpace charges $3.95!  CreateSpace takes longer to ship, but for that difference...

Hope this helps all the budding self-publishers out there!  We're on the verge of making our big book announcement, so please check back!

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Mind is a Terrible Thing...

No, seriously, it can be a terrible thing, to waste or not!  Have you ever tried to define what the "mind" is?!  And never mind the subsets -- attitude, behavior, smarts, etc.  Well, that's what I've spent part of the weekend doing, both for the newsletter and the website.  In trying to figure out how to present helpful and interesting information, I thought I had better define some terms or at least have a starting point.  Well, it has been challenging, but as I always say (but not necessarily do), just take it in bite-size pieces :-)  Ugh, and I haven't even started on Spirit yet.  I think the key is going to be to keep things simple -- let each reader define things for him or herself, but offer what will hopefully be useful and maybe thought-provoking selections.

Update:  Clownie has a head!  But, strategically, I'm discovering that Clownie should have a hat first, so that I'll know how to position the face, so that's the next aspect of this project to nail down.  Famous last words, but the hat should be quick and easy.  I'm getting excited about putting him all together!

Ok, time to pay some bills before hitting the road!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Real Website?!

So, of course like many small business owners, I've been struggling with getting a real website up and running.  I have my domain name and hosting services with Network Solutions, which of course is more than willing to sell me an expensive package of design services, etc.  And, I have to say, they've been very nice whenever I've called or written in with questions, so no complaints, but you are on your own with that service.  But, alas, all I have is a one-page site directing visitors to other sites (thank you honey!).  Oh, to have a real site that truly provides a one-stop resource!

Well, recently, I was trying to catch up on some old issues of Entrepreneur magazine (totally worth picking up) and came across http://www.yola.com/.  You can use their templates and build a free site.  For $50 a year, you can get rid of the yola branding at the bottom of the site and get more services.  For $350, they will put together the website for you.  So far, so good -- I have found it to be very user friendly, and they responded very quickly when I sent a message about being able to publish the site to my existing domain name and service.  Now, I haven't actually hit the "publish" button yet, but as I said, so far this all seems legit and good, so just saying...

Ok, Clownie is coming along well, his head is almost done, and then, I will tackled the pom poms.  I hope I can find that video on YouTube again about how to make them!

Friday, July 9, 2010

The End is Near...

Hubby comes back on Sunday and my Phyllis time is almost over :-)  I'm ready for him to be back, though I have enjoyed the time to revel in cleaning and organizing and crafting and leaving things wherever I put them and knowing that it will still be there when I return!

My latest project is a clown doll for a friend of mine.  Her Nana used to make them for all the kids in the family, and I think she's hoping to fill the role now.  You know, I usually don't like clowns, I guess I fall into the camp that finds them creepy.  But, I have to say, this crocheted clown is actually pretty cute.  I've been reverse engineering it, though I did Google it, and sure enough, I think I found a starting point for the pattern (Nana made modifications, and my friend and I really like her version, so I'm trying to stay true to it).  Pictures soon.

And, the self publishing blues continue...  An update on that will be coming soon too.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

While the Husband's Away...

The crafter will create!  I've also been on a cleaning frenzy, but have come to a screeching halt on what to do about new outside balcony furniture.  Oh well...

But, I did discover a stash of embroidery floss in all sorts of beautiful colors.  It got me thinking... and here's what I came up with!


Of course the center starts with a flower, and then I just built around it, changing colors as I went along.  It was a fun, quick project and has me itching to work on some more jewelry, ooooh, maybe with beads!  The pattern is available on Ravelry (click on icon on left panel).

Hope everyone had a happy 4th!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Self-Publishing Blues

I remember someone saying we've all got at least one book in us, and with self-publishing options these days, it should be easy to just whip out this book and get it into the world, right?!  Well, boys and girls, not so easy.  It's amazing all of the components of the process that you have to think about -- should you get an ISBN?  What does that mean anyway?  What size should your book be?  What service should you use?  What all-inclusive package should you let the publishing service talk you into getting?

I certainly don't have any answers for you, yet, but I found this article by David Carnoy of CNet very helpful:   http://reviews.cnet.com/self-publishing/

Oh, and it's important to try to figure out which publishing service you want to use first because that will inform what options you have regarding size and pages of the book (I'm discovering that each service seems to offer different sizes from each other, so it's not easy to move your book around or list on multiple publishing houses without being able to adjust the size).  Thankfully, my understanding of how to use InDesign is growing, so I think I'm going to be able to resize things and be able to take advantage of both Lulu (which has the size of book I want but is more expensive) and CreateSpace (which is cheaper and is the Amazon subsidiary, so I have to believe that distribution would be better).

So, stay tuned for more trials and tribulations in the self-publishing world!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Crochet News

What can I say, it's Wednesday, and I'm up because the hubby had to go to work early today.  So, here I am :-)

Thought I would take this opportunity to tell you about a new (knit and) crochet magazine that I found in Barnes and Noble a few months ago.  It's called "Knit & Crochet Style" and it's printed in Germany but written in English.  There seem to be 2 issues so far, but it's not clear to me if it's a monthly publication.  The first issue has both knit and crocheted sweaters and tops for women, and the second issue has baby items.  I haven't made anything yet, but I get the feeling it is written with English (v. American) crochet terms.  But, there are a lot of photographs and schematics, so I'm hoping I can figure it out.  I'll report back.

I'm still refining the crochet tips book on Lifetips -- I'm awaiting their software upgrade so that I can get that project put to bed!  The delay has been frustrating, but in a way, it's motivated me to keep cleaning up and organizing the site and to start work already on the sequel!

I will leave with a teaser -- for those of you living in or near Washington DC, it looks more and more certain that there will be a yarn store in Dupont Circle in the fall!!  Whoooo, hoooo.  I will know more in the next few weeks and will blab then :-)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Emptiness

The title refers to my Etsy shop -- it is now down to two active listings, which will expire next week!  I have (sort of) done this on purpose because I need to revamp the shop and figure I should do it on a clean slate.  Of course, how this revamping is going to occur is not totally clear to me yet, but I have a week in which to figure it out ;-o

I still struggle to figure out how best to spend my limited crafting time and what products frankly will appeal to the most people.  I think a lot of people struggle with the dilemma of making what they want to make versus what will actually sell.  Of course, you're always hoping that the two will be one in the same!

Right now, as far as actual crochet projects go, I'm intrigued with crochet techniques that yield knit-looking fabrics.  I'm testing out some different ways to create "knit" and "purl" stitches using a crochet hook and incorporating those stitches into a few projects that I've got pictured in my head.  I know we're just starting summer, and it is my favorite season, but my mind is already on scarves and shawls, though I just got this cool ribbon-like yarn that I think would actually work well for a summertime cover-up, so maybe I should work on that before getting sidetracked by scarves and winter garb!

Speaking of summertime days, I think I'm going to get out there and enjoy it -- I can crochet when it's dark outside!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The I Hook

So, I get a call from a friend last night -- sounds like she's distressed and calling from a crowded venue.  "Phyllis, I'm at the craft store, and there are no I hooks!  I'm crocheting another baby blanket, and if I use a G hook, it's going to be half the size it's supposed to be!  Help!"  Oh, I love me a good crochet emergency :-) 

Which got me to thinking about how "emergencies" in our lives can be both good and bad.  They sure get the blood flowing, but adding stress to your life is never a good idea.  It might be a good time to start planning some crochet projects as Christmas presents and starting NOW to work on them -- much less stress when November and December roll around :-) 

I've been having so many crochet ideas flowing through my head (good), but no time or inclination to do anything about it (bad).  I'm not going to stress about it though -- creativity can't be forced.  I just read somewhere that the best way to get into a creative groove is to NOT think about it and to go and do something totally different.  Makes sense -- sometimes, my best ideas come to me when I'm in the shower! Oh, and it's so important to write that "great" idea down when it comes to you.  Otherwise, you will forget it, and you can then have the luxury of contemplating and refining the idea later on to figure out if it's really that great or not.

So, have a great creative and productive day!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

My Why

So, I've actually been reading "Start With Why" (usually, I go to these lectures, get the book, then put it up on the shelf to gather some dust!).  It's not like Mr. Sinek says anything that you don't already sort of know, it's just that he is so good at articulating and explaining these concepts in a coherent and useful way.  For example, Chapter 5 is about Clarity, Discipline, and Consistency.  He talks first about having a clarity of why -- you really need to know why you do what you do.  Then, he has you focus on the discipline of how -- once you know why you do what you do, then you need to figure out how to do it.  Then, it's all about the consistency of what -- the why is your belief, the how is the action you are going to take to realize your belief, then the what is the result of your actions, everything you say and do.

I remember growing up my mom used to always say "if you don't have your health, you don't have anything."  So, I've always believed that you have to try to take actions to stay healthy, and, if you do, you can have anything else that you want.  My why for MCG then is to promote health.  How?  By finding or creating things that enhance a person's health and wellbeing.  For total health, you have to work on the health of the mind, body, and spirit.  The what?  Products that are geared towards mind, body, spirit, ... and crochet!  I really believe the crochet part covers all three aspects of health -- it's very meditative and relaxing to crochet, it's a physical activity, and the fruits of your labor can be shared in so many giving and charitable ways.

I'll be back with more insights into Mr. Sinek's book, but grab a copy for yourself, it will really keep you engaged and make you think!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Start With Why

I attended the best author reading yesterday.  Simon Sinek spoke about his book "Start With Why, How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to take Action."  Again, he was easy on the eyes :-) but his message truly is so important.  I've talked here about vision and how to formulate your own message, but really, the first step is to ask yourself "why?"  Why do you get up everyday?  Why do you love certain things?  Hard to articulate, right?!  That's because the why of our lives often comes from gut feelings and visceral reactions, which can be so hard to put into words.  But that's exactly what Mr. Sinek tries to do.  By giving examples of people and companies who are successful because they are able to capture and communicate their whys, Mr. Sinek helps articulate the true meaning behind business buzz phrases like "find your passion" and "being an authentic leader."  Definitely worth picking up.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Where did the week go?!

Where did the week go?!  I'm glad it's Friday, but I had planned on posting, tweeting, etsying, and so much more this week ;-)  Oh, well, that's what Sunday will be all about...

I've got a new pattern up on Ravelry, for a cute little summer baby hat.  The prototype has gone off to a friend's niece as a baby shower gift.  We were originally aiming for a bamboo yarn baby blanket, but it took me a while to find a reasonably priced bamboo yarn for such a big project, and it still hasn't arrived in the mail yet.  We're thinking it might be a good Christmas present (and it turns out that a knitter gave the mother-to-be a blanket at the shower, so just as well!)

I'm hoping to post a couple of new projects up on Ravelry soon, but I've been working on the book projects with a fabulous graphic artist.  Really, if you need a graphic artist, I would highly recommend "SunnyD" on elance.com.  It's a great service, actually -- you can go to elance and post a project and have lots of different service providers bid on it, or you can identify particular providers to give you an estimate for your job.

But, more on these projects later.  What thought will I leave you with tonight?  Mmmm, just get out there and take a break!  Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our projects that we forget to play :-)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Clean Fifteen

So, we covered the Dirty Dozen last week.  Now, let's look at the Clean Fifteen -- the fruits and vegetables that are still relatively safe even if exposed to pesticides, so it's not necessarily worth spending extra to get organic versions of these:

Onions
Avocados
Sweet corn
Pineapples
Mango
Sweet peas
Asparagus
Kiwi fruit
Cabbage
Eggplant
Cantaloupe
Watermelon
Grapefruit
Sweet potatoes
Sweet onions

All of these have a thicker outer shell that helps protect them when exposed to pesticides, so when tested, they tend not to absorb or retain contaminants.

Ok, so get out there and start eating your fruits and veggies!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Business Ideas and a Crochet Keyboard Duster

What a clever idea!  I saw it and had to share:  http://www.favecrafts.com/Crochet/Easy-Keyboard-Duster

I've got to give this project a try right away, as I stare at the little nasties that seem to have gotten into my keyboard.

Isn't it amazing how someone comes up with something so clever, and we just slap ourselves up side the head and say "why couldn't I have thought of that!?"  Well, there's no reason why you can't.  Often, such ideas come from just doing your normal day-to-day kinds of things, but keeping an open mind to whether a task can be accomplished in a different way or with an aid that will make it easier, faster, better somehow.  In fact, here's a fun but enlightening action item for you -- tomorrow, go through your normal routines, but instead of doing them almost unconsciously, think about them and see what variations you come up with.  This is often how small businesses that become big ones begin!  Good luck!

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Dirty Dozen

Read a great article today about the fruits and vegetables to avoid because they are susceptible to pesticide contamination:  http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/06/01/dirty.dozen.produce.pesticide/index.html?hpt=Sbin

Here's a quick recap:

Celery
Peaches
Strawberries
Apples
Domestic blueberries
Nectarines
Sweet bell peppers
Spinach, kale and collard greens
Cherries
Potatoes
Imported grapes
Lettuce

Try to buy only organic from this list, and be sure to ask at the farmers' market to be sure that they haven't used pesticides -- surprisingly, one farmer said to me that she still uses pesticides, just not as much!

Monday, May 31, 2010

My Vision Statement

Ok, I think I've gotten my vision statement into pretty good shape -- what do you think?!

"As someone who has had the pleasure of seeing an expectant mother thoroughly enjoy and appreciate the hand-crafted crocheted baby gift I've given her, I want to help you experience that feeling as well and "be thoughtful" and true to your giving nature.  Gifts of crochet, whether to someone special or to yourself, are a great way to nurture your peace of mind, health, and sense of satisfaction.  In striving to be thoughtful towards you by providing beneficial and beautiful products and services, we at Many Creative Gifts are expanding into other areas also, like recipe books and meditation beads, to take a more holistic approach to health and happiness.  Join us on our journey to enhance and savor beauty and well being in the world through mind, body, spirit, ... and of course crochet!"

I need to tinker more with it I'm sure, but at least it's a start, and I hope you've been working on your own vision statement as well -- even if you're not going into business on your own, it's good to think through these five factors and how they are operating in your life in general.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Creating Vision

So, I'm still trying to recover from all of the travel and the resulting cold, but I think I'm back!  And, of course, the business is always on my mind, and I came across this book "Creating A Vision" by Corey Criswell and Talula Cartwright.  I've talked before about how important it is to really think and know about what it is you are trying to accomplish with your business, but this book really organizes the thought process you should be going through in order to be able to carefully craft a mission/vision statement for your work.

It's worth getting the book, but here's a little bit about what the authors are recommending.  Basically, it's a five-step process to capturing your vision for your business.  You need to think about 1) the big idea, 2) your values, 3) the story, 4) future growth, and 5) change.

Rather than use "rhinestone widgets" as the generic example, I'm actually going to use what I've been putting together for Many Creative Gifts.  First, I really need to articulate the big idea -- the fundamental enduring ideal on which MCG is built.  Thanks to my husband, who articulated it best, MCG is all about "being thoughtful".  I want to be thoughtful towards my customers and provide them with what they are looking for.  I want to help my customers be thoughtful in figuring out gift items for others and themselves.  But, even more than that, it's about being thoughtful, internally and externally, in all aspects of your life -- "mind, body, spirit, ... and of course crochet!"

Next, you want to think about your values -- what do you stand for?  My business is all about thoughtfulness, sharing, and appreciating  and savoring beauty.  I want people to find peace of mind, health, spiritual satisfaction, and to utilize crochet, either by crocheting themselves or sharing crocheted items, to help them achieve these goals.  Crochet can help someone relax and distract her or his mind, get some physical activity (about 100 calories an hour!), give of herself to others, and have fun!

So, what's your story?  What got you to this point where you're sharing with the world of potential customers out there?  I learned how to crochet in 6th grade from a favorite teacher, who taught one of my closest friends and me to make a scarf.  I intermittently crocheted over the years until 2005 when, while cleaning out a closet, I found my hooks and a ton of yarn and decided that either I had to give all this stuff away or really start making use of it.  Since a number of my friends were having babies, I decided I'd start making some (or what I hoped would be) keepsake crocheted items for their shower presents.  It was such a great feeling for me when they would ooooh and aaaaah over the gifts, and I hoped that they felt my love and caring for them and their babies.  My friends encouraged me to try to sell my creations, and this was about the same time that crafting was really making a comeback and Etsy was gaining in popularity.  So, I formed MCG as a limited liability company and I was in business!

Ok, so you've identified your story, where are you planning on going from here?  How do you plan on growing and expanding your business?  Of course, being a "scanner" (that'll be a topic for another post), I couldn't just stick with crochet, oh nooooo, I started to experiment with tie-dye, jewelry, and meditation beads. Now, I've expanded into healthy recipes and gluten-free cooking (more on that later too!).  And, you know, it all fits with my values of helping others with their "mind, body, spirit, and crochet" growth, so it makes sense, at least to me, to expand into these areas.

And, finally, the change factor -- how is your business going to reflect the changing times, and what will you need to do to get yourself moving into the future?  For me, it's going to be about utilizing all these new technologies becoming available to get my message out.  As I've talked about before, I hope to be getting a podcast going soon and making ebooks available.

Now what?  Well, you've got to put all of these thoughts and concepts into one encompassing statement that embodies your vision for your business.  Ok, I'm going to go work on mine and post it later today or tomorrow -- feel free to post yours!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

New York, New York

Well, I'm back from another trip, though this one was just up to New York for a long weekend.  Didn't make it to a yarn store, though I saw a crocheted hat in Henri Bendel's -- it was $495!  I was going to take a picture of it, but the sales girl was hovering a little too closely.  Heck, I could copy that sucker, and I'd only charge half that amount ;-)

Anyway, I also thought about blogging from the train, the Acela Express has free wifi, but I got a little too comfortable and read some magazines instead.  I'm realizing how fast I've been trying to run on the gerbil wheel and how much I really needed to get off.  Even though I did a lot of walking in NYC, I got a chance to get some R&R too.

So, now that I'm back and trying to do laundry, etc., let's see what thought I can leave you with tonight to hold you over until I get a chance to do a proper blog post.  How about record keeping?  If you've decided to give your business "Rhinestone Widgets" a try, it's important to keep good records of all business-related transactions.  Aside from needing good records when it comes time to file taxes, you'll need them for other federal and state filings too.  Plus, you'll need to think about the legal structure for your business.  I know it sounds scary and overwhelming, but there are a lot of resources out there to help you, many of which are low-cost or free.  Here's a great book to get you started:

Friday, May 21, 2010

TGIF I think...

I can't believe it's already Friday!  This week seemed to go slowly, but then picked up at the end.  Still trying to recover from the trip out to CA.  Ended up catching a cold when I got back, so still bumbling along here!  I did manage to put up a customized twitter page, so check it out and start following me!  http://twitter.com/PhyllisOfMCG

I'm not sure what else I've got to report.  The newsletter went out, and this month's topic was National Better Sleep Month.  Some really good tips on the types of food to eat before bedtime that will actually help you get a better night's sleep.  Not too late to subscribe!  Either subscribe to the blog in the box to the left or send me an email requesting the monthly newsletter at contact at manycreativegifts.com

I think I might have a baby blanket project underway soon as a baby shower present for a friend of mine.  I'm discovering how pricey and difficult to find bamboo yarn is!  I'd really like to make her something of natural fibers, but it's challenging.  It really should not be!  I need to do more research on this...

Ok, you'll see new buttons at the bottom of my posts -- please give me your feedback, it's for your own good :-)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Juzu

It's funny how things ebb and flow in life (yes, prepare yourselves, Phyllis is going philosophical on you today!).  About 4 years ago, I was meditating more regularly and exploring Eastern religions and philosophies.  My friend Jean is a practicing Buddhist and was sharing with me her specific practice.  She follows the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, and I wanted to give her something of meaning to enhance her practice, so I made her a set of "juzu" or prayer/meditation beads.  I picked out specific gemstones and crystals that would enhance her health and peace of mind, and I threw in a few for wealth and her love life too!  (Yes, these are yet other areas of interest for me -- gemstones, crystals, astrology...).  I found a great wire product by the SoftFlex Company because one of Jean's complaints about previous sets of juzu is that they're not sturdy enough for daily use and break often.  And, through the process of ordering and using SoftFlex's products, I ended up applying for and being selected as one of their Featured Designers:  http://www.softflexcompany.com/WSWrapper.jsp?mypage=spotlightdesigner_Jun06.html

As a result, I ended up with some new customers for juzu, one all the way from England!  And, recently, she "friended" me on Facebook!  So, that's what got me thinking and blogging about getting back into the juzu business.  I love making sets of meditation beads (and I've made rosary sets and other prayer beads as well) -- feeling and choosing the right beads for the recipient, arranging them, and assembling them is just such a soothing experience for me and knowing that the recipient hopefully is going to experience the same soothing and satisfying experience from using them just makes it such a worthwhile endeavor.

So, look for more details about the juzu sets and customization services that I will be offering again here and on the Many Creative Gifts Facebook page or feel free to contact me with any requests you may already have!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Oh, So... Tired!

Man, this week has been rough.  It's been busy at work, and then I get home to piles and piles of laundry (with only 2 loads done so far :-(

I have been working on the newsletter -- May is National Better Sleep Month, so that will be this month's theme.  I'm really feeling the effects of not having gotten consistent sleep recently.  It really does make such a difference, and the research I've been doing for the newsletter has been eye-opening (would it have been better if it were sleep-inducing?! LOL)

Ok, I know, not so funny, but it is Friday morning, so all is good!

The thought I will leave you with today is photography.  Do you have some amazing pictures of your rhinestone widgets?  If not, and believe me I know how challenging this is and am still working on it myself, this needs to be a priority item.  Potential customers want to see what your product really looks like, all the angles and sides, with details really showing up clearly.  One thing I haven't been able to do yet is get real people to wear my products and take pix, but that is really is important too.  There are a lot of tips available on the web to help you take the pictures yourself, or try contacting a local photography school to see if students would be willing to take pictures for you in exchange for $$ or maybe a special rhinestone widget of their own.