amandajocrafts

August 31, 2012

On Finishing a Non-Crochet Project.

Filed under: On Creating. — Tags: , , , , , , , — amandajocrafts @ 11:10 am

I absolutely love crocheting for my Etsy shop. I love creating patterns, adding new product lines, and I especially love the new teddy bears I’ve been making. But sometimes, it’s particularly gratifying to complete something for yourself, something you know you’re not going to sell or give to a family member, something that is just going to be yours.

A little while ago, I had written about a “finished” dress I found in my closet–finished but for the fact that it was many sizes too big (how does that happen?) and the whole bodice would have to be taken out and redone. (Click here to read about it.) Well, I did it this weekend–mumbled and grumbled my way through the excruciating process of undoing all those stitches I had previously done and refitting, repinning, resewing, trying the dress on so many times I grew sick of it…and I had an epiphany. Sewing is the opposite of yarn art. In crocheting or knitting, it’s the creating that takes all the time–all those loops and yarn-overs and knits and purls and everything–millions and millions of painstaking knots. In sewing, however (at least with a machine), the sewing part is so fast–a couple ZIPS under that needle and you have a seam. But taking it out once you’ve made a mistake, without injuring the fabric, is both tedious and time-consuming. I mentioned as much to my fiance, and he just commented on my lack of patience.

At any rate, I successfully made it. I hemmed it all by myself. (Which is a feat for me, because I usually beg my mother to pin it while I’m in it to make sure it’s all even. But since she’s a couple states away, that would have been quite difficult.) I added some cute buttons. And here it is:

It’s not perfect, but I am proud of it. And now I have sworn off sewing for the next six months.

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August 30, 2012

On Loving an Etsy Purchase.

Filed under: On Etsy Loving. — Tags: , , , , , — amandajocrafts @ 10:02 am

This is not a post about date night, but you’ll have to get around it first.

Last week, my fiance and I had a “date night.” We try to do this at least once a month: pick a fancy restaurant, dress up, and pretend like he wears snazzy ties and I wear stiletto heels all the time. I’d strongly recommend this for any couple–it keeps it fresh and reminds us that being with each other is a privledge, and we’re so grateful to have such loving company. It takes us out of the habit of plotzing down on the couch after a day’s work and watching Frasier reruns (although don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan), of exercising and complaining about eating too many cupcakes (me) or only completing 300 of the 500 self-prescribed sit-ups that day (him).

So, we went to a little Italian restaurant quite close by. It’s one of my new favorite places, because it is Italian. The cook rivals (but does not beat) my grandmother’s cooking; the waiters all look like they could be Godfather extras, there are pictures of 50’s crooners on all the walls, and there is the most fascinating employee who, as our waiter says, is there to “tell good stories.” He has leathered skin, an easy smile, perpetual shades on, and talks to us about his many past girlfriends and his time spent working in a lounge in Vegas. I really don’t want to know what his position was there.

The other fun part of this evening was being given the opportunity to use a new Etsy purchase of mine from ChatterBlossom *wave to ChatterBlossom*. (See, I told you this wasn’t about date night!) I purchased her “Tickle Me Pink” bow early last week (see, I told you I would!) and she was super-duper kind and awesome and generous and added in a set of her bobby pins to say thank you for the feature. Well, I had a difficult time deciding which hair accessory to wear first, but since I had a new nice dress burning a hole in my closet for the last week, I had to go with the item that matched best: the bobby pins. They looked so pretty with my french twist! (Pardon the strands of hair that didn’t make it in the twist; I have a LOT of hair.)

So, thank you again to ChatterBlossom, and if you want to read about how cool she is, head on over to her feature here.

August 29, 2012

On Being Under the Sea.

Filed under: On Wordless Wednesdays. — Tags: , , , , , , , , — amandajocrafts @ 9:51 am

August 27, 2012

On Craft vs. Art.

Filed under: On Creating. — Tags: , , , — amandajocrafts @ 12:22 pm

In undergraduate, I minored in Studio Art. From the beginning, this was my “fun” minor; I already had a major in English and another minor in Computer Science as a “just in case,” so art was because I had the time and opportunity. It was an wonderful chance to use supplies and machinery that I right assumed I would never have the means to use again, at least, not without a studio fee or a millionaire’s salary.

During this time, I got involved in printmaking. What a magical discipline of the arts–it is a blend of severe discipline and throw-your-hands-up willy nilly. I could–and will–have an entire post on the beauty of this art, and its origins for me, at another time.

Suffice it to say, for my final project to complete my minor, I wanted to incorporate my new favorite art, lithography, with knitting, something I truly enjoyed doing. At that time, I, surprisingly, had to fight for my right to knit art. According to my professor, knitting was craft, not art, and I could not complete a craft project for an art minor. I had to find a way to make knitting art.

I did, by creating a family tree, both satisfying myself and my professor. However, I still was not satisfied with knitting, as a definition, being craft and not art. Was I really to believe this was less of an art than fingerpainting, or twenty-first century smudging on canvas, or works that have three paint strokes down a seventy-inch wide canvas? Wasn’t knitting hundreds of hours of fine, concetrated work, often tasking every reserve of patience and discipline you possess? Why, since it finished functional, could it no longer be considered art? Why, if I could sell it, did it downgrade to craft? Painters and drawers sell their work, and they are “doing art.”

Where is this line drawn?

Moreover, why is “craft” something less? It was spoken about in our classroom like it wasn’t worthy of being included in galleries, or treated as seriously as art, or something to cherish. Isn’t craft a seller putting their all into a piece to make a livelihood? What’s more deserving than that?

For me, two years later, I still don’t have the answer. I still feel slightly slighted and indignant of behalf of fellow sellers. I would love to know your views.

August 23, 2012

On The Sun and the Turtle.

Owls…owls…OWLS!

That’s the first thing that strikes me about The Sun and the Turtle, a Finland-based Etsy shop. I also have a weakness for really cute owls, so (of course) I got hit head-on by “want, want, want!”

With her partner, John, Jennifer keeps The Sun and the Turtle full of crocheted and knitted pieces. When I asked her which she prefers, she was split: “Tricky question :). I like to crochet the amigurumis. It’s a great feeling to see them form in my hands. Almost like magic, they form with my hook as the wand.

“At the same time, I make winter hats and mittens for the long winters in Finland, and I can knit for hours listening to audiobooks or talking with my partner John while we work with The Sun and the Turtle.

“I cannot choose! Both of them have their magic.”

Knitting, in my opinion, is one of the most difficult disciplines to sell on Etsy. It’s so very time-consuming, and since a majority of Etsy knit buyers are those who don’t know how, they don’t always realize how much work goes into a piece. In addition, amigurumis are a sub-market. Although they are, essentially, really adorable dolls and animals, some people don’t know that name for them and, therefore, don’t know to even search for them on Etsy! (For more about amigurumis, click here for an earlier post.)

So, I’m particularly pleased to have the opportunity to learn more about The Sun and the Turtle, because I’m all about increasing amigurumi exposure! And who wouldn’t want one of these adorable amigurumis? Jenn’s heart goes into them: “I love to be crazy with my amigurumis. Now it feels very fun to crochet them because I have hooked so many that I feel confident. I usually make a drawing first and then I start hooking them. The imagination is the limit. :)”

Once you get the hang of crocheting in the round, it’s simple! Try out this strawberry pattern as a good starter project.

In addition to the adorable strawberry, The Sun and the Turtle recently launched a blog, where there are some awesome free amigurumi patterns. You can check it out here.

Jennifer’s favorite item in her shop is her Knitted Owl iPhone pouch.

I seriously hope she’s using one herself, because I think just walking around with that would sell itself! She has a great feel for combining the essentials of an owl with her own splash of creativity; they’re recognizable as owls, but they’re also uniquely The Sun and the Turtle’s. These animals “come from our admiration for animals and nature. We spend a lot of time in the woods, and there you learn how to appreciate every single living form. Through that admiration and the crystallization of our ideas we spread a message of awareness because we want animals and nature to be treated with dignity and respect.”

It’s a lofty responsibility, but one that Jenn and John treat with pride. All the more admirable, because Jenn runs her shop while also attending school. She doesn’t see it as an added chore, though, but a “fun” responsibility. “I just make our products and post them once they are ready and well done. Then I continue with the gazillion things I have to do. It is a matter of organizing your time and not get too stressed about everything.” Words of wisdom I should take into my own heart as I go back for my master’s this September!

Finally, I brought up “The Great Etsy Christmas.” Etsy sellers have already begun preparing for this annual event, stocking their shop and buying extra supplies to ship out the upcoming high demand of items. In The Sun and the Turtle, expect to see some woolen winter hats rolling out in early October. My personal favorite is the one with the mermaid!

So, if you’re enjoying these unique creations as much as I am, come and check out The Sun and Turtle. The best part? Even though they’re in Finland, the internet brings them right to you! “Etsy is a global community where people appreciate all the wonderful creations despite nationality or borders. It is awesome when someone who believes in what you do can have it via post, and are willing to wait a few days more for the product to arrive.” I completely agree!

As always, if you’re an Etsy shop with personality, attitude, and a passion for creating, feel free to submit to be featured on amandajocrafts!

August 22, 2012

On Trees and Small Paths Near Them.

Filed under: On Wordless Wednesdays. — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — amandajocrafts @ 10:02 am

August 21, 2012

On Crafting for Pleasure.

Filed under: On Creating. — Tags: , , , , , , , — amandajocrafts @ 11:27 am

I’ve been having this renewed joy in crocheting lately.

When my shop first opened, I was delighted to make new things, and I only briefly petered in that resolve until I moved states and started crafting like a crazed person all over again. Around this May, however, I started looking at it as more of a chore than a delight, and I faltered for a bit. I think a lot of that had to do with an Etsy seller’s mentality of “sales, sales, sales.” I wasn’t getting a lot of them. Nevermind that I’m a small shop and my items are often given as gifts, making them far more in demand around Christmas. Nevermind that I wasn’t doing everything right, either–I did not have multitudes of items, my pictures were poor, my tags were not optimized. I felt sorry for myself for about 2.5 seconds, as is my nature. (I can’t abide with pity parties from anyone, including myself.)

Well, I shapened up my attitude, took new pictures, and started crocheting with a vigor, exponentially adding items to my shop. I poured through the Etsy Success team, looking for tips on how to optimize my titles and keywords, on how to make my shop look more professional. Now, after all that work, I’m back with a whole new outlook on it.

It makes me happy. Due to a day job with a stable income, I can spend a bit of extra money on supplies without a guaranteed return. Coming up with new, adorable designs that make people elicit little “cooing” sounds is delightful (and a little ego-boosting). Why shouldn’t I crochet for fun?

With that in mind, and with the inspiration from a fellow Etsyian, I started making a line of Halloween Octopi: Witchapus, Frankenpus, Ghostapus, and Pumpkinpus.

After the Halloweenopi, I’ve now been making a new line of Collector Teddy Bears. They’re crocheted with a lovely, soft yarn in a super-tight stitch, and they’re big, for the dolls in my shop (about fifteen or so inches tall when standing), all of which makes them SUPER DUPER huggable.

Now, I know this is a “designer” item, that not a ton of people will be looking to spend that much on a bear, but my new favorite part is that I don’t care! *Picture me throwing my hands up in the air haphazardly. I probably accidentally hit someone just there.* I know the right buyer is out there somewhere, and I don’t mind the bears hanging out on my bookshelf until that buyer comes along. Would you mind this face crashing at your place? Seriously. Come on.

My fiance and I call him “Rust Bear,” and yes, we talk to him and occasionally hug him. What heart-filled person wouldn’t? My long-winded point is I’m doing what I love, I’m making the people around me happy, and it fills me with joy. That’s what this is all about.

Are you an Etsy seller, too? Have you ever felt disheartened and needed to remind yourself you’re doing this because you love it? I’d enjoy hearing your stories, too 🙂

August 20, 2012

On Braiding.

Filed under: On Creating. — Tags: , , , , , , — amandajocrafts @ 11:45 am

This morning on the bus, a woman pulled her hair to the side of her face and began braiding it while reading a book. Her hair was thick and dark and straightened. (Having curly hair myself, I can always tell when curly hair is straighted.) My first reaction was disappointment: she had clearly spent some considerable time making her hair perfectly straight, no bumps or ridges, no frizz.

Then I thought again. The braid was beautiful too–even more so was the way in which she did it. Swept it from her neck with one stroke, firmly divided the thousands of strands into three, and while she was doing something else–while her concentration was on the book in front of her–she created something entirely new.

I can braid; I do the same thing she does. When it’s raining or humid or hot, my hair doesn’t stay trailing on the back of my neck like some woolen blanket; it goes into a braid. I guess I just never realized how graceful and commanding the act was, how skilled one had to be to change the structure of your hair in fifteen seconds. Do I look that powerful when I do it, too?

Like braiding, crocheting takes strands and makes them into a context. Any project does this: sewing, knitting, beading, felting. We are changing the very structure of these items. We have the power to alter their makeup and how people perceive them. Yarn is just yarn until you, essentially, tie it in a million knots. Then it’s craft, or art, or a blanket, or a doll. We don’t personify yarn, but we do give faces and voices and personality to a teddy bear, or an octopus, or a rabbit. We make them matter.

That’s a daring thought.

August 17, 2012

On ChatterBlossom

Filed under: On Features. — amandajocrafts @ 11:24 am

Today, I hung out (online, of course. The World Wide Web is a magical creation.) with Jamie Lee, owner of one of my new favorite Etsy shops: ChatterBlossom. She sells accessories for weddings and other special occasions. Her wedding fascinators are fresh and plucky, and her upcycled bows and bobby pins are vintage chic.

(No touching; I have dibs on this one as a reward for my next sale!)

Opened recently (May 22 of this year), ChatterBlossom already has a strong sense of shop style. So many new Etsy sellers have trouble at first with creating a coherent, professional look to her shop. Jamie, however, brushed off my compliment and said: “I really tried to make the best of what I have. I don’t have a studio, an amazing camera, or even a model. I just try to take clear photos without too much fluff. And I spend HOURS trying to take the photos of the pieces in my own hair. Just set timer, run, repeat!”

What first really struck me about Jamie’s shop is how much she knows about her creations; she doesn’t just tell you what they are and how they were made, she tells you who you are if you like that piece. Her favorite piece is the “Let’s Fall in Love” fascinator, which is also a great example of what I’m talking about:

I don’t just get to read about what it looks like (in beautiful, yet succinct, detail–I should be taking notes from her!), but I also get the following:

Personalities: The Dreamy and Affectionate
Places you’ll find yourself: Moonlit, romantic walks along hidden woodland trails

What a unique way to describe a piece! And the most beautiful part is, I can see it. It’s a dreamy, ethereal world full of delicious nature surprises budding around every corner. It makes me desperately want to be wearing that fascinator in the woodland trails with my fiance, relishing in the intimacy of the moonlight. In two lines, she has painted that complete picture for me.

Her favorite item to make in her shop is her “Golden Buttons” bobby pins:

When I asked why, she told me “I love to hunt for them and find a little work of art each time. Pairing them with other treasured buttons is liking reuniting old friends.” The buttons do look like old friends; although they’re all found different places, the combinations posted really seem as though they were meant to be together.

 She obviously takes pride in her work product, and rightly so. Even though she claims she’s an amateur photographer, her photos do a great job of giving value to her piece, and I think we’re all getting a huge bargain. But, she has different aspirations. Although she would like to have steady, consistent sales, and is building her stock steadily toward that goal, mostly “I would just like to know there are fun, beautiful women walking around with my fascinators in their hair.”

I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that I will be one of those women!

Before I let her get back to her shop, I asked her one more question: what is her Etsy weakness? (All Etsy sellers have one; we spend way too much time building networks on that site not to fall in love with something: a style, product, or genre.) Hers, hands down, is vintage clothing. (I’m with her.) “I heart vintage hats, dresses, and shoes like it’s going out of style (and coming back in again! 😉 )”

You can find ChatterBlossom right here on Etsy. And, if you think Jamie is pretty cool too, you should definitely check out her blog, as well. I’m a follower!

August 16, 2012

On a Summery Treasury.

Filed under: On Treasuries. — Tags: , , , , , , , , — amandajocrafts @ 3:42 pm

I’ve recently begun getting more active in some smaller Etsy teams. Yes, I’ve been posting and discussing in the Etsy Success team for the last month, taking and giving tips on optimizing my shop, but at least for now, I think my shop is there. Now, it’s the networking that I really want to work on.

Two teams in particular, the Interactive Blogging Team and the YARN (Yarn Art with Respected Notoriety) Team, are full of great, interactive people, who don’t just post and run. (It’s a common problem in the Etsy team world; people will post their new item, or treasury, or blog post and then not bother to look at everyone else’s.)

In an Interactive Blogging Team initiative, we’re encouraged to make some treasuries featured our team. So, below is a treasury dedicated to the end of summer and the start of a great blogging relationship!

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