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Friday, September 28, 2012

Starting a Crafts Business Part Time, Post 1

As a number of you already now, I started Many Creative Gifts in 2005 as a part time way to showcase my crochet items, mainly on Etsy.  I'd make a baby hat or some type of crocheted accessory and post it on the site and wait to see what would happen.  Etsy was in its infancy, and I'd get a decent amount of views and interactions with potential and actual customers.  I also made good use of the "alchemy" feature by searching for customers who were looking to have customized crochet items made for them.  It was an eye opening experience in terms of learning about proper pricing and meeting someone's very specific needs and desires in a final product. 

Now, though, I'm not sure a person new to Etsy could achieve the same experience.  There are sooooo many vendors on Etsy now, I'm just not sure exactly how any one particular vendor can stand out, unless he or she has a very specialized niche that pushes them up the list in a Google search.

So, where to start?  I'm not discouraging an Etsy shop (or one of the other arts seller platforms); I'm just suggesting you have a very specialized angle if you go that route.  Otherwise, consider these possibilities:

1)   Go local – make it known to your family and friends that you've got something you make that you would like to show them.  No pressure, but if they like it, would they like to place an order for themselves or as a gift for someone?  See how that goes.  Although you might not get the same kind of honest, possibly harsh, feedback that you would from strangers, it's a gentler, less scary starting point.  And, frankly, if they are smiling and encouraging you but not willing to fork over some $$ for at least one item, then that's telling in its own way too.

2)   Stay local for a bit – you really might have better luck in local crafts shows and stores at first.  Despite the ease of buying things online, the shopping experience is still best had in person.  Especially if you are in the fiber arts, potential customers like to see the colors in real life, touch the product and get a real feel for it, especially if it's a wearable.  So, take advantage of that and find ways to display your wares.  And be sure to make a few things that you can either carry around with you to show off or wear yourself – that's often how you will get questions or reactions.  Keep business cards and other "swag" with you to hand out to help people remember you and know how to contact you in the future because, even if they are not ready to buy that very minute, you want to leave a good impression for the future.

3)   Start blogging and create a Facebook page – I know, there are a million blogs and pages out there, but again, you've got to start somewhere.  Just like the literary agent  encouraged me to do, start letting people know what it is you do and what it is you have to offer.  Put up some pictures of your products and explain a little about either your creative process or why you created what you did, etc.  The handmade movement has started to evolve from just offering the product itself into presenting a story, a whole package, the whole you.  I'm not saying come up with a sob story to tug at people's hearts because, frankly, it's still about the product in the end.  I'm saying be authentic and just share a bit.  Again, you don't have to spill the beans on all your personal details, just give people a small window into why you and your offerings might appeal to them.  You and your products are unique in some way, and you need to share that.

Ok, that's a lot of information for now.  More will come :-)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

I've been on a cleaning binge!  I guess it's because the dust bunnies got too big to ignore, lol.

But, I'm taking a little break here to share with you a great new site that my wonderful friend Lori found --  They have a free digital crochet magazine that can be downloaded in PDF form (there's a print version available for purchase as well), and I have to say, I think they've got a really fun, fresh approach to not only crochet, but fashion and trends as well.  Also, I really like their added focus on using crochet for charitable pursuits.

The Fall 2012 issue has an interview with Kathryn Vercillo, who's written a book titled "Crochet Saved My Life."  I'll be writing a separate blog post about Kathryn and her insights into the health benefits of crochet, but I think you'll like getting a jump on reading about some amazing and courageous women.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Running a Part Time Crafts Business

So, as I last left off, I was describing the amazing event that the Summit of Awesome was and how I hoped to use that experience to keep learning and growing as a crafts business.  Oh, did I mention that I met with a literary agent who. albeit very nicely, kinda shot down all of my book ideas.  But, you know, it was good because I could have continued working on those ideas, using up valuable time and not really getting anywhere (though I still think I'm on to something and will probably start sharing my ideas with you soon through posts to see what kind of reaction I get).  Actually, what she said was very interesting – to get picked up by a literary agent who'd be willing to work with a good book idea, you need to be sharing those ideas and having about 10,000 unique visitors to your blog a week, reacting to those ideas positively!

Now, dear readers, this is where you come in – I really do need you to help me know what you're thinking and feeling about my posts, both good and bad.  Do you like a topic?  Can't stand it and don't want to hear another word about it?  Or, hopefully, can't get enough of it and want to hear more?  Then, please, please, PLEASE, let me know.  Either below through comments, or on my Facebook page, or however you'd like to communicate with me.  I mean, seriously, I will continue to share with you the things that I have found interesting because you can't ask me to provide information about stuff if you don't already know about it, but still, if there is something you want, let me know.  I don't need to hear myself talk, I want to give you the kind of content that is of interest to you, but I can't read your mind :-)  So, as Captain Kirk would say, engage!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Understanding Japanese Crochet Patterns

I had a student recently who said she was taking my Beginner's Crochet class so that she could learn how to make amigurumi figures.  It got me thinking about how many wonderful Japanese amigurumi patterns are out there ("amigurumi" after all originated in Japan) but how hard they are for us English-speaking crocheters to figure out.  Well, after a bit of searching, I found this great website that helps in translating a Japanese pattern:

I also realized that many crochet patterns from other countries often use the universal language of crochet symbols in addition to written instructions.  I haven't yet found a really comprehensive glossary of crochet symbols to share, but I will keep searching or, better yet, put together one of my own!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Summit of Awesome

So, this past Saturday was the Summit of Awesome, put on by Hello Craft.  And, I must say, it lived up to its name!  First, where else can you just walk in and come upon a table full of fun materials to start creating with?!

There were lots of good presentations on various aspects of running a crafts business:  a woman from MailChimp spoke about the different features available to send out newsletters and other email messages to subscribers; there was a lawyer who talked about the ins and outs of copyright, trademark, and public domain in the arts;  the founder of Spoonflower talked about how he and his partner came up with the idea and how it's been growing over the last 5 years, but not as smoothly as it might appear.  I also really appreciated the presentation from a representative from Outright who explained some of the features of that accounting service (which I already use, but probably not to its full potential).  Actually, after the whole day of presentations, I realized a few key things:

1)     I am operating at a very middling understanding of all the benefits that a number of these online services can provide.

2)     And, to do things right and at the level I would like to do things, I need about 30 hours a day.

3)     And, it's true what they say – a crafts business is probably about 20% crafting and 80% business!

But, you know what, you do what you can do!

I ran into one of my crochet students, and it was great to see her.  I'm impressed by her crochet work and that she has quit her day job and is giving this a try full-time!  Her company is called Penny & Paul, and she is currently making the cutest baby beanies and little shoes.  She's inspiring me in so many ways, and I hope to report soon about some different ways in which we are going to team up :-)

I also ran into a number of other really talented crafters there, and as I said, it was a really inspiring day, though by the end, I had a headache and felt a bit overwhelmed.  I plan, though, to use the experience to really (once again) step back and think about how I use my very limited time.  I'm sure I'll continue to share those struggles with you over many upcoming posts.

Friday, September 7, 2012


Ah, I got a chance to stop by Barnes & Noble the other day and not only did I find the latest issue of the new Inside Crochet magazine, but I also found the Fall 2012 issue of Love of Crochet magazine and a new edition of "Crochet Traditions" by Interweave.  Well, you know how I spent that evening!

I have to say, now that Claire Montgomery is back at the helm of Inside Crochet, the magazine is better than ever!  I think Charles Voth did a great job as Interim Editor considering the circumstances he found himself in, but it's a good thing for us that Tailormade Publishers took over the magazine and revamped it.  There's a pattern in there, the Dover skirt, that is just beautiful. It's meant for pre-teens, but I think I could make a big girl version for myself ;-)  But, who am I kidding, I've got so many other projects going and that need to be going before I get a chance to make something for myself....


The Fall 2012 Crochet Traditions issue has some amazing examples of fine-thread and lace crochet in it.  And, the articles!  So much great information about the history and origins of different crochet techniques, you really should think of this more as an anthology-type book rather than just a collection of patterns.

Now, I admit it, the only reason I got the Love of Crochet issue is because it has my Kindle and iPad Covers pattern in there as a web bonus!  The magazine bought a lot of patterns from the old Inside Crochet magazine, without contacting the designers or anything, but our contract did have some language in it that pretty much allowed the old IC to sell our patterns to others without permission or further remuneration.  I keep emphasizing "old" IC because the new IC is not playing those kinds of games.  I know a lot of designers are still feeling really burned by the old IC, but I say, shake it off and move on and think of it just as more exposure!!

Love of Crochet -- Coming Soon!

It's so good to see more and more quality crochet publications! 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Three Cups of Coffee

A few weeks ago, there was an article in our local Express free newspaper about a traditional coffee ceremony in Ethiopia and how some local residents are trying to maintain the tradition here in DC (it's a ceremony performed in the home; Ethiopian restaurants here in the US don't usually offer them).  Essentially, over an hour to an hour and a half time period, participants drink three small cups of hand-ground coffee and socialize.  Sounds good to me!  It made me think about how wonderful it would be to have such a gathering and combine it with the warmth and interactions of a sit 'n stitch.  Ethiopians have a rich culture of crocheting as well, and that tradition has been carried on by many island nations, most predominantly by Jamaica, whose residents follow the teachings of Haile Selassie and the Rastafari movement.  There are a number of recent documentaries that explore the history of Rastafarians, Bob Marley, the history, culture, and music of the beginnings of the movement and where it is now.  I saw one during the DC Filmfest and, despite some controversial aspects, no one can argue against the message of peace.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

I'm Back!

I can't believe the summer is almost over and that I took such a long break from blogging!  It really hadn't been my intention to be away from it for a whole month, but time slips by so quickly.  I have been working on a new project for the new and much improved Inside Crochet magazine as well as a couple of new things for my own shop. 

I've also given two crochet demonstrations at the Sit n Stitch at the Renwick Gallery!  If you find yourself in DC and want to visit a more intimate, more specifically-curated museum, then the Renwick is definitely for you.  The museum is located across from the White House and focuses on American arts, especially craft work, and currently has this great exhibit called "40 Under 40: Craft Futures".

Renwick Gallery
 I especially love checking out this website that shows a Flickr set of photos of how the exhibit was installed.  I unfortunately missed the demonstration of the glass spinning wheel, but just seeing it was pretty amazing.  It really does look like a work of art even at rest, but here's a picture of it at work.

Also, I continue to work at getting my new website up and running.  As I should have predicted, any time there's an update or "fix" in a computer program, seems like more things go wrong!  But, I've almost got a handle on it, and I'm really hoping you'll like some of the new features I'm trying to build in.

So, how did you spend your summer?!